While English increases in popularity, there are words and phrases commonly found in various other languages that will never be directly translatable. We’re here to celebrate these beautiful, strange, and often elaborate expressions that hold importance to their respective cultures.
Who hasn’t felt a longing for home? The funny thing is that this sentiment gets translated into a variety of languages because like so many beautiful and untranslatable words, it speaks to a sensibility that is truly universal but difficult to capture into a concise phrasing. Beyond being a basic human need, having a sense of home gives us purpose, community, and a sense of belonging. It’s no wonder that feeling without those things can truly evoke a sense of deep loss within us.
This is a sentiment that is universal.
The Welsh language is no different, and certainly no less fascinating.
Spoken by over 700,00 speakers and in at least 5 different countries — ranging from the British Isles, all the way to Y Wladfa speakers in Argentina, the Welsh language (or Cymraeg, as it’s known in its native tongue) has its roots in the Celtic language. Due to the similarities that it shows geographically with the English language, one would think that there would be more crossover, but that’s not always the case. Their variant roots make it highly unique, and privileged to certain vocabulary that might take an English speaker many more words to express.
For those familiar with the oft-quoted Portuguese ‘saudade‘, the Welsh counterpart ‘hiraeth’ speaks to a longing for home and its remnants: of a time passed, a place lost, or perhaps never been to. But the feeling remains, and the experience is a gratifying one. It’s a feeling that is almost impossible to translate into mere words, but whose feeling carries over across lands.
In nearly eight languages or more, the feeling of ‘hiraeth‘ speaks to a sense of deep longing of an untouchable time or place; it’s presence is tangible but its attainability is impossible. Author Val Bethell describes it best as:
“The link with the long-forgotten past, the language of the soul, the call from the inner self. Half forgotten – fraction remembered. It speaks from the rocks, from the earth, from the trees and in the waves. It’s always there.”
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